05:16 GMT06 June 2020
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    Commenting on the ongoing Congressional investigation into the Benghazi attacks, Cato Institute senior fellow Benjamin H. Friedman suggested that the hearings are drawing attention away from the real scandal behind America's role in the war in Libya, which is the ease with which the Obama administration was able to pursue the use of military force.

    In his analysis, published in The National Interest Wednesday, Friedman noted that the use of the investigation "as a [Clinton presidential] campaign kickball distracts us from the fact that it was a tragic result of a foolish war, one which Secretary Clinton championed."

    Scrutinizing Congressional Republicans' initiative to launch over half-a-dozen probes into Clinton's actions, the analyst pointed out that "if a tenth of the scrutiny Congress devoted to Benghazi went to the administration's case for bombing Libya in 2011, that case would collapse. The flaws in the case were clear then, and Libya's postwar disintegration, of which Benghazi's chaos was symptomatic, just makes them clearer."

    Hence, in Friedman's view, "the real scandal" over Libya is not the Benghazi debacle itself, so much as "the US war in Libya and Congress' failure to exercise its war powers and interrogate its rationales."

    The analyst pointed out that four years on, none of the Obama administration's justifications for supporting Libya's rebels have borne fruit.

    Despite arguing that "a rebel victory over the Gaddafi government would make Libya a liberal democracy," the country has instead become "illiberal and chaotic," with clashing militias in the driver's seat. 

    Friedman recalled that the writing was on the wall long before the intervention began, with dire warnings from the expert community in 2011 suggesting that Libya did not have "the prerequisites that tend to produce liberal government," and that "military interventions in civil wars" like the one proposed and ultimately carried out "generally produce continued instability, not successful democratic transitions."

    As for the administration's suggestion that support for Libya's rebels would prove US resolve in helping Arab Spring protesters across the region, increasing the chances of 'dictators giving way to popular uprisings', Friedman pointed out this idea was "even less sensible…If they did take lessons from Libya, it was to crush dissent before it invites outside help and they wind up like Gaddafi – being brutally murdered on YouTube as the US Secretary of State jokes: 'We came; we saw; he died.'"

    As for the much-vaunted argument that the intervention was aimed at saving civilian lives, Friedman pointed out that not only did Gaddafi not threaten civilians with "genocide," as suggested by Clinton during last Thursday's hearing, but that the foreign intervention and prolonging of the civil war "likely produced more deaths than Gaddafi's victory, which was likely in the absence of intervention, would have." 

    Citing Harvard international relations scholar Alan Kuperman, Friedman noted that "the postwar collapse of the state greatly adds to the humanitarian toll of intervention," and "that too was predictable." Suggesting that many Middle Eastern countries, including Libya, Iraq and Syria, lack "the institutional and ideological coherence" necessary for producing liberal democratic transition, the analyst recalled that "ousting [Gaddafi's] regime produced political violence likely to endure, at the expense of Libyans' wealth, health and life spans."

    Partisan Disagreements Melt Away When It Comes to Waging War

    Worryingly, Friedman points out that despite the emergence of a scandal around the Benghazi attacks, the war itself has not been the subject of Congressional scrutiny. This, in the analyst's view, is "because the war was bipartisan," with virtually all Congressional Republicans supporting the war, and the Democrats too "busy defending Obama and Clinton at the partisan barricades to indulge any dovish inclinations they might have vis-à-vis Libya."

    The consequences, in the expert's view, are not only a dangerous lack of accountability, but also an inability to learn from mistakes. "With no one in power motivated to criticize the wisdom of the war, arguments for it escape scrutiny. The consequence is not just an absence of accountability. Today a bipartisan chorus, including Clinton and her Republican critics, makes similarly fatuous claims in pressing for stronger efforts to aid Syria's rebels."

    Commenting on Clinton's opening statement at last Thursday's hearings, which effectively suggested that "the lesson of Libya [was] that we need to intervene more often or thoroughly," Friedman noted that "if anyone on the Committee disagreed with this suggestion…they didn't say so. No one asked for a limiting principle, or about the implication that the United States needs to send in troops to Libya today."

    Ultimately, in Friedman's view, "the Benghazi hearings were worse than a partisan witch hunt. They were an exceedingly narrow one. The real problem in our foreign policy is not partisanship, but the bipartisan consensus that produces reckless military adventures and fails to learn from them."


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    hearings, Benghazi attacks, military intervention, destabilization, intervention, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Muammar Gaddafi, Libya, United States, Benghazi
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